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Project Management and Firefighting

Most bloggers won’t admit to how they often find inspiration for their posts in other blogs and tweets. Anywho, I found my inspiration for today’s post from this Tweet: “Why do so many professionals say they are project managing, when what they are doing is fire fighting? – Colin Bentley” from

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  1. It’s a vicious circle.
By |2023-12-13T15:28:07-05:002023-12-13|

eBook review: Coaching Practices for Managers

Project management is, in my opinion, much more about soft skills than processes and forms.

In this short ebook published by the government of Canada, we get valuable advice and techniques to improve our leadership.

Coaching Practices for Managers is a handbook to learn how to understand beyond what the person is really saying. It's built to make the reader think about their own acts and their own situation, so it makes it less theory and more practice.

For example, the book teaches us how to see the hidden request and commitments on complaints. If someone is complaining that it takes too long to receive approvals, we can see that this person is committed to delivering on time, and that she is looking for ways to speed up the approval process.

None of what's in Coaching Practices for Managers is rocket science. It's simple stuff that we can take away and use to improve how we manage our project teams.

Something I especially likes about the ebook: it can be […]

By |2010-01-19T16:00:00-05:002010-01-19|

Why control is more illusion than fact

There is a lot about control in project management books and best practices: we need to control scope, budget, schedules, quality, etc.

It's expected of project managers that we have control over the project. But what about the uncontrollable? What about people?

People are not as easy to plan around as machines or supplies. When we put a printer on a table, we don't expect it to call in sick or start printing badly because it's having troubles at home.

But people do.

How much control do we really have on our projects?

I think we have as much control as our team gives us, as long as luck is on our side.

What do you think?

By |2009-11-16T17:56:00-05:002009-11-16|

In honor of International Project Management Day: Sponsor Buy-in

Today is International Project Management Day. I bet there will be quite a few posts on project management as a profession and a methodology.

I would like to talk about something that is to often forgotten in projects: the importance of the sponsor in the project.

No project without the sponsor

If no one wants the product or end results of the project, there will be no project. The sponsor is not only the initiator of the project, she is the reason for the project to exist. The sponsor is not just the flag-waver in the race to deliver the project on time and under budget. The sponsor must be involved with the project at many levels:

  • At project kick-off. It's a communication issue that is too often glossed over: the project team should understand who is initiating the project, and why it's being done. This should be learned from the project sponsor directly. The project manager saying "the sponsor told me" just doesn't have the same value, or the same credibility for that matter.
  • For all major changes to the […]
By |2009-11-05T18:53:00-05:002009-11-05|

Project Management is a craft

Jorge Domingez asked the question: is project management science or art? 

I agree with Jorge that project management cannot be reduced to only art or only science. Rather, I see project management as a craft .

Wikipedia defines craft as "a skill, especially involving practical arts. It may refer to a trade or particular art."

Project management is about skills

Project management is being able to put people together, to organize work and to motivate the team to achieve the objective. While some are from the art world and some from the science side, these are all skills. 

Project management is about the practical world

Project management is about achieving a defined goal. Projects are not theoretical endeavors.

Project managers are craftsmen and wormen

Project managers must bring together skills from different, almost opposite worlds (art and science) and work with their team to deliver something tangible at the end of the project.

What do you think?

Do you see project management as a craft?

By |2009-11-03T12:53:00-05:002009-11-03|

Something to think about: the project’s impact on our planet

Can our project management style affect the environment? Most of us would say yes, as long as we're working on a type of project that is physical in nature. For example, if we're building a bridge or a building, it's obvious that the project has an environmental impact. It's also obvious that the building style and practices chosen will have an impact.

But we don't think about the environmental impact of office work. Beyond telecommuting to reduce our carbon footprint, here are three areas where we can affect climate change in our project management practices.

  • The paper-free office is not a dream. As project managers, we have an impact on how we produce our status reports and other documentation to support the project. We have a choice on the media we use to distribute this information. Let's keep this in mind when we have a choice between printing and emailing a PDF file!
  • Kick-off and team building activities with the planet in mind. Even if it's only choosing reusable glasses and mugs, our project team's carbon footprint […]
By |2009-10-15T19:57:00-04:002009-10-15|

Nobody likes having a rash

If we wear an ill-fitted shoe, there will be friction between our foot and the shoe. If left unchecked, this friction will turn into a painful blister. Afterward, we will be unwilling to wear the shoe again because of the pain that friction cause our poor foot.

The same process happens if there is friction in our projects. If friction prevents someone from doing their job on the project, they will associate these negative impressions with the project as a whole.

This is why we should work hard at removing friction and making things easy for the project team, internal and external.

It should be easy

  • It should be easy for the stakeholder to request changes
  • It should be easy to a member of your team to raise a flag about an issue with the project
  • It should be easy to the sponsor to know how the project is going.
  • It should be easy for everyone involved with the project to know what's the next step 

How easy are these things in your project?

By |2009-10-13T16:55:00-04:002009-10-13|

Follow up: project management is about humans, not processes

Earlier this week I posted a piece about keeping in mind that we are working with people, and as project managers we should not become obsessed with the processes and methodologies.

The post created such interesting discussions on Linkedin I’ve decided to share some here:

  • Paul McKelvey wrote:
    “Reward is another thing humans like. It may be cash, but it can be recognition. We call it the “psychic paycheck.”
  • Peter Michaelson wrote:
    “The team is a must for project success and the component of the team are the people. Each one has unique personalities that the project manager must understand and be able to work with.”
  • Ajaya Gupta wrote:
    “Doing things right and the right way is a hallmark for success”
  • Ned Robins wrote:
    “Teams are like families. They grow. Good leaders are like good fathers. Occasionally they dish out a spanking. More often they give a little thanks and praise. But they ALWAYS care. A lot. About every member of the team. “
  • Maria Puntel wrote:
    “We can have the best tools, excellent processes in place, but without a good team you will not get the results you […]
By |2009-09-11T12:50:00-04:002009-09-11|

Project management is about humans, not processes

With the Agile methodologies gaining momentum, there is a lot of talk about process. How projects should be managed, how to implement methodologies in an organization, which method is best to achieve project goals on time and on budget.

But what is project management  really about? Is it about processes and forms and reports?

It’s all about humans

Project management is about a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a house, a piece of software or a book. None of it can happen if the humans don’t work together.

The best processes can be thwarted by a key team member who suddenly becomes unavailable for the project or a project manager who leads like a dictator. The best project management methodology will fail unless we convince the team to accept it.

Five things to remember about humans

  1. Humans have feelings. We may not always show it, but we are driven by emotion. It’s important to take your team’s reaction into account when choosing how to present a decision.
  2. Humans like to feel good about themselves. This […]
By |2009-09-09T14:15:00-04:002009-09-09|

When does “sticking to the plan” cross the line over to inflexibility?

During my vacation we traveled to Europe. We originally planned to stay one week in Paris and a second week in Madrid. After 4 days in Paris, we realized we would get bored if we stayed the whole week. We had two options:

  1. Stay and be bored.
  2. Pull a map of Europe and choose a place to visit for a couple of days.

We chose to take the train and visit Brussels.

Project plans should allow for flexibility

While it’s important to have goals and to know how we will achieve them, it’s also crucial to remember that the one thing that is certain about your project plan, is that it will change.

It may be tempting to stay with the plan at all costs. The plan was thought through and approved. It’s the path that was chosen to get complete the project.

However, as time goes, what you and your team know will improve, and that will change how you see completing the project. One’s aversion to change should not be an obstacle to adjusting the plan.

As @threew […]

By |2009-08-28T12:36:00-04:002009-08-28|
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